Sept. 27, 2016
University of Notre Dame Football Media Conference
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Brian Kelly: Obviously, we’ve had a very busy few hours, few days, and looking forward to getting back out on the practice field. For coaches, that’s the best place for us to get to work on our football team, and it will give us an opportunity to, you know, to begin to put our football team in the best position that we can be to start winning football games.
So we had meetings yesterday. We got a chance to get in the weight room, got a chance to talk as a football team as to what we need to do to get back to winning, and this team clearly understands the direction that we need to go. We’ve made the changes that I felt were appropriate to start to move us in that direction. We will continue to make the appropriate changes necessary to get this football team to the point where it needs to be relative to success on the field. So we look to do that in very short order.
I don’t believe that’s going to take much time at all. I expect it to happen this Saturday against Syracuse, and I’m excited about getting back on the field and practice and getting this football team to the position where they can win on Saturdays. We’ve got a very good opponent in Syracuse. Coach Babers runs an extremely fast offense. They throw the ball very well.
Obviously, Amba Etta-Tawo is a receiver that we have to be aware of, but — was that pretty good? Not too bad? I could have said No. 7. I took a shot at it!
But a talented receiver. They’ve got a number of talented receivers all of them are very good players. The quarterback is one that throws out a lot of different arm slots, can get the ball down the field. They like to push it vertically. They’ve got a nice, quick game, good screen game, will run the ball effectively if you’re too soft in the run game. Just a really nice game. Coach Babers has put his team in a position where they can put points on the board.
What we’ve got to do, obviously, it’s pretty clear. We’ve got to keep the points down and that will be our objective on Saturday and to be more efficient on the offensive side of the ball. So with that we will open it up to questions.
Q. Brian, DeShone is ranked 23rd in the country in passing, 14th in pass efficiency, is set to beat the record for passing efficiency. Is his job in jeopardy?
Brian Kelly: His standard of play is not where we want it to be for him. I think I made that pretty clear after the game. There is a standard that is set for a player, and that standard is based upon what he believes and what we believes should be acceptable for him, and turnovers and his ability to continue to grow as a quarterback sets that standard. If he was a first-time starter or he didn’t set the pace that he had set last year, maybe the standard would be a little bit lower. But he has set a standard of play that we believe he needs to meet and exceed every time he goes out there.
Q. Does that mean he might not be the starter against Syracuse?
Brian Kelly: No, he will be the starter against Syracuse.
Q. You talked about making changes defensively and you will be more involved. How involved will you be and what will that mean with regard to the offense?
Brian Kelly: I will be very involved with the defense, but obviously I’ve got, clearly, a great staff, especially when I look at it in totality, bringing Greg on, an experienced defensive coordinator, certainly I’ve got the people in place.
But I’m going to obviously be much more involved on the defensive side of the ball and have been this week. But I will still see the implementation of our offense and make sure it’s what I want. Mike and Mike will continue to do the things that they’ve done. I’m very confident in their ability, but I won’t all of the sudden disappear.
At the end of the day, I’m 1-3 as a head coach. So I’m not going to all of the sudden advocate my duties in overseeing offense and special teams.
Q. What changes do you expect to see on the defense? Any change personnelwise?
Brian Kelly: We’re going to play with enthusiasm. We’re going to play with the passion that I said was missing. We made the changes we needed accordingly to bring that back. That will begin to show itself. You’re going to see a lot more players playing. There is going to be some depth, some camaraderie. We need to get that morale up on defense, and we will do that with a lot more players involved in what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis.
Q. Seems you’re walking a bit of a fine line when you tell a player or anybody that their job is in jeopardy if they don’t do better, but to go play looser and freer, it seems that’s a challenge to do both at the same time.
Brian Kelly: No, everybody — when you’re 1-3 at Notre Dame, everybody’s job is in jeopardy. So it doesn’t mean that you can’t be who you are. It just means that there needs to be a sense of urgency and that you need to be focused. You need to be on top of it, and you need to go play the game the way it’s meant to be played.
So it’s not meant to be in any way — and we’ve talked about this — a threatening form to our coaches. The reality is we all have to look at ourselves closely, and myself included, at how we’re doing things on a day-to-day basis. Are we doing everything in our power to be the best we can be? That’s the intent. That’s how it’s been articulated to our team. Each of our players understand that. Each of our coaches know it. It’s not a threat. It is a reality of the sense of urgency that everybody has to embrace on a day-to-day basis.
Q. The challenge of trying to stopAmba Etta-Tawo?
Brian Kelly: There is a couple of things. First of all, he’s targeted with the football. You know the ball is coming his way vertically and they do a great job with their read routes so if you try to play 10 yards over the top of him, he’ll pull it up and catch it, and he’s a big, physical kid. He’ll have a run after the catch.
If you try to play press and man-to-man he’s got great length and catching radius that he can take the ball right off the top of your helmet. You gotta know where he is at all times, and you have to factor into your game plan a very gifted and talented player. So he’s a challenge. There is no question about it, and we know about him.
Q. To be more involved in the defense, what does that mean, exactly for you? You’re not calling plays, and so what does “being involved more” mean?
Brian Kelly: It means that it’s going to take a style of defense that I’m much more accustomed to, the way I want to play defensively, and we’ll pull from the library, which we already have. We’ve already put our defense together for Saturday, the way I want to look defensively. And then our defensive staff will call the game, and it certainly will be something that I will have some say in as well.
Q. With Kizer, how many hits are too many for him? You use him in the run game a lot. Does that wear him down in the course of the game?
Brian Kelly: No, we look across the board relative to carries. The things he’s got to understand is do a better job of is he needs to slide a little more. Trying to spin in the open field are not smart moves on his part. He needs to get down. I don’t want — and I told this to Mike the other day, I don’t want our whole offensive running game to revolve around the quarterback, either. It shouldn’t eat up 65% of our run game.
So that has to the change a little bit. The identity of our offense still should be focused on the running back in the run game not the quarterback. So that’s one piece that needs to be tweaked and will be, and the other piece is that he’s got to be smarter in the open field.
Q. What do you think got you to that point with the run game that was too quarterback driven? Was it the way teams were defending you?
Brian Kelly: It’s pretty easy to get the quarterback involved in the running game because the hats match-up pretty good. It’s easy to kind of default to that, because you’re picking up the running back as a blocker. So it makes it sometimes easier to go in that regard.
Q. You were fairly tough on your roster after the game on Saturday. How often can you go the to that whip before they start of tune it out and it’s not effective anymore?
Brian Kelly: You know, I don’t know that I was that tough on the roster as much as I was tough on my coaches. I think when you tell your coaches that they’re on a job interview for the rest of the season, that seems to be pretty tough, more so than saying there is a standard of play at a particular position.
But you guys can interpret it any way you want. It’s my team, and I don’t think that I’m too tough on ’em. I think there is an expectation that you have at Notre Dame, and that you need to play that way.
Now, having said that, it still falls on me. If this team is not playing well, it’s my fault. It’s my fault that they’re not playing well. So I have to find the solutions to it. After a game, when you’re frustrated with the play, everybody is on notice. I’m on notice, and I made that pretty clear that I’m responsible. I said our coaches were on notice, and I said our players were on notice.
Because we’re all in this together. We all spend the same amount of time. If I didn’t make that clear, I will make that clear one last time and then we’re going to move on, everybody is on notice, and is it starts with the head coach.
Q. I had the sense if you say someone doesn’t play with passion is that the best way to get someone to suddenly play with passion?
Brian Kelly: No, no, I have to be able to find out what are the reasons that we’re not playing with passion? I’ve made some changes, obviously, some significant changes, within my staff, that go to maybe some of the reasons why we weren’t. And there are other things that have to continue to evolve for us to continue to move in the direction that I want.
Passion is only one element. Attitude, passion, accountability, responsibility, all of those things are within this team that I have to help grow, quite frankly, and that falls on my shoulders.
Q. The Michael Birch version of your depth chart was the same this week, and I’m curious, you haven’t had a chance to practice yet, but you said you wanted to look at some people.
Brian Kelly: I do.
Q. Can you share with us some of the people that you’re interested in getting a longer look at?
Brian Kelly: I think, you know — see we have to be careful. You can’t take somebody that’s had no reps and give them 70 on Saturday. That’s impossible. But what we can start to do is put a depth chart together that gives a young man a look at saying, I got a shot, here. I’m part of the solution. I want guys to feel like they’re part of the solution here. There is going to be a lot of those guys that are going to feel like that they now can be part of the solution both in a defensive standpoint and in some instances on the offensive side of the ball.
The cliff for me in terms of the number of reps that we’re getting is too stark. For example, Josh Adams had 54 reps and Dexter Williams had 10. That’s too stark of a cliff right there. Josh Adams is one heck of a good player, if y’all believe that, and I do, too. But we’ve got to do a better job there and that’s one example. Jay Hayes had zero reps. That can’t happen. Asmar Bilal had zero. Brent had 10. Greer had 10.
So you can see the disparity right there. It then becomes a one-dimensional football team, the have’s and have not’s and that does not do well with morale. That does not do well with ownership for everybody and attitude. We’ve got to build a better base there and that starts with me making sure that that happens.
Q. There has been —
Brian Kelly: And I’m not saying everybody’s gotta play and we all gotta go have a big, group hug at the end of practice. It’s merit based, too. But there are too many good football players that haven’t been playing, in my estimation, and I’m making the calls on both sides here and they gotta get in the game. I just wanted to make sure we were clear on that.
Q. Al was campaigning for the group hug.
Brian Kelly: Camp fire. The whole thing.
Q. There have been people that have asked me about the talent level. Is this talent good enough to be a better than average defense?
Brian Kelly: Yes, it’s inexperience and it’s overused. It’s overused. We’ve got some guys out there that are dog tired trying to do things and they got too many reps and we got too many good players sitting behind them watching and we’ve gotta get them in the game and we’ve got to trust them and we’ve got to coach ’em and get them in the game and that’s on me.
Q. I know you don’t want to give away what your defensive scheme is, but I’m trying to get a sense of who is affecting it. Coach Hudson, do you want his stamp on this defense, or is this your defense and he’s operating it more or less?
Brian Kelly: It will be the system that’s in place and it will have more of my stamp on it. Greg has been empowered to bring the energy, the enthusiasm, the passion, the morale, the camaraderie. I need those things from Greg. That’s what I need. I want our kids to be excited when they step on that field against Syracuse. I’ll worry about the implementation, the scheme. I’ll take care of that for him right now. As he gets more comfortable with what we have and what our system is about, then he will be much more involved in what we do.
But right now, you know, we’ll write the music and he’ll be the lead singer. If that’s a — I don’t know if that’s a great analogy, but if that makes any sense. He’s going to be out front, but he just got here. He’s just — in terms of being, you know, assuming this role, he’s learning everything as well.
Q. I know on Sunday you mentioned that you didn’t delve into player reaction at that point. When there is kind of a shock to the system, players sometimes galvanize, sometimes they scatter. I’m curious your early returns on what you’re seeing from your players.
Brian Kelly: I don’t know. We’ll see today. Players are pretty resilient, you know? They’re going to play, at the end of the day. I’m sure that there are personal feelings one way or the other, but in my experience they’re pretty resilient. They’ll be ready to practice today, and it will be up to me and the defensive staff to create the kind of environment that gets the things that I’m looking for out of ’em. That will be probably the bigger story than what their reaction to the change was.
Q. In 2010, you got off to 1-3 start. You had some hiccups on the defense and then you got a buy-in from Brian Smith late in the year that seemed to help pull your defense in November to new heights. You had three, really four good games to end the season. What can you maybe draw from that experience? Was it as simple as Brian Smith buying in? Were there other changes made that helped that?
Brian Kelly: Talent only gets you so far. Talent only gets you so far. You know, it’s attitude and creating the environment for those guys to, you know, play through whatever the scheme is. Doesn’t matter what the scheme is. I’m here because I want to be here. I enjoy what I’m doing. I love what I’m doing. I love my teammates. I love being here every day. It’s attitude, and it’s my job to create that.
Q. When you say you want your guys playing more loose and having fun out there, do you have to change maybe your sideline demeanor to try to get that out of ’em? Obviously we all see and it’s understandable, why you’re upset sometimes on the sideline. But do you have to be more loose on the sideline to get them to be more loose?
Brian Kelly: You know, I actually think I should probably — I think I’ve been a little too — what’s the word I’m looking for? Maybe not as demonstrative. I think I’ve got to be more fiery on the sidelines, quite frankly. So I’m going to try to turn it up a little bit on the sidelines, because that’s who I am, you know? And I’ve been hands off a little bit. I just need to be who I am, and not be, you know, as hands off and I’ve got to be more involved. So if I was too fiery, you guys will have even better stories over the next couple of weeks.
Q. Talk about standards for DeShone and setting a high standard for him. For the defense, what is your standard for them going forward?
Brian Kelly: Keep the points down, play with great energy. I want to see guys celebrate together. I want to see guys having fun and enjoying playing the game. If we get to that end, good things are going to happen defensively.
Q. The fun aspect, you mentioned some players were playing a little too anxious, and that was leading to poor tackling form. I don’t want to say that’s the only fix, but is that part of the fix to some of the tackling issues?
Brian Kelly: Some of it. I have a philosophy that is going to start today about how that’s going to go, and, you know, I’ll get to work on some of the things that I think are more important and I think they’re going to be effective. We’ll get to work on those. A lot of this has to do, as I said, with creating competition, creating an opportunity where you can see light at the end of the tunnel. You are going to be part of the solution and that you care that what happens out there is affecting your teammates. It’s not just about you. You don’t want to let your teammates down. That’s going to create a lot of, I’m going to make sure I make that tackle.
Q. You’ve had back-to-back weeks with receivers losing a fumble. How do you coach that with young guys who are trying to make a play, like Equanimeous losing it, C.J. losing it?
Brian Kelly: In that instance, where — E.Q. has to use better judgment. He has two guys, one is there to rip. He’s got to get down. He’s trying to make a play, but I think in those instances you have just got to be smart. I think we see it every week, whether it’s on NFL or college football. Once the second guy comes in to rip you gotta get down.
C.J.’s was sloppier. He has to have three pressure points on the football. We addressed that had last week, but E.Q.’s was a learning moment.
Q. Does that come when you have so many sophomores or first-time players in a receiving core?
Brian Kelly: A lot of young guys out there. A lot of young guys. It’s unacceptable, but a lot of young guys out there.
Q. You mentioned on Sunday that obviously the players don’t know Greg Hudson very well. Do you go into this game — is there a co-coordinator with him?
Brian Kelly: Mike Elston will be up in the box. Mike has a great understanding of the defense, certainly, so he will be working close with Mike Elston.
Q. And I’m sure you have a plan this week defensively and how that’s all going to unfold, but it’s uncharted territory, I would imagine. What is at the top of the checklist this week? I know you talked about being emotional and having fun and going for it, but physically what’s at the top of the checklist?
Brian Kelly: Well, first of all, you’ve got to understand we’re playing a team that goes extremely fast, extremely fast. So there can’t be any confusion. A defense that is comfortable in knowing what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. So we’re going into a situation here where we have to get lined up. We have to know exactly what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.
So first and foremost, they have to feel so confident in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it in this kind of speed that we’re going to see with this kind of offense. So that’s really if you want to check the first box, that’s box No. 1. And we’re going to play a lot of players. How do you get those players in the game when they’re playing so fast? No. 2 is keeping the points down, and that means doing things that we haven’t done before, quite frankly.
So there’s some things that we have to practice this week that are a little bit different for the guys, and those all have to come together on Saturday.
Q. When you say that, it sounds to me like you’re describing a little bit of Bob Diaco’s defense, your first coordinator here, are you talking along those lines?
Brian Kelly: No, but obviously what we have to do more than anything else is allow our guys to get lined up. You can’t do that with what we saw this offense do. This offense is so fast. We don’t want to do what we did against Texas where we were physically in a nickel situation most of the game. We want to get our bigger guys on the field as well.
So we learned from maybe some of the Texas things, but we also learned that we’ve got to get the right personnel on the field. So just understanding that our defensive structure has to be such that, you know, we can’t defend everything. We can’t defend everything, but we have to be sound. I’ll leave it at that.
Q. You mentioned some of the guys that you would like so see get more reps, Hayes, Bilal, et cetera. Do you not as the head coach already control that or you left that in Coach VanGorder’s hands?
Brian Kelly: Well, you know, I think some of it is, at times they’re not prepared. They’re not ready for this kind of scheme, and now that I have put in what I believe to be something that they can handle, it changes the view from this perspective. Now there isn’t that insulation of the answer. Now there’s no excuse why they can’t be on the field.
Q. Not necessarily asking for specifics here, but can you give a general characterization of the — I mean the decision that was made over the weekend. I’m sure you and Mr. Swarbrick met over that. Can you characterize the direction of that conversation?
Brian Kelly: My ultimate job is to lead this program and evaluate where our team is. As I said, I felt like the change was necessary for us to move in a positive direction. I didn’t think that we were going to move in the right direction unless a change was made. That meant relative to my personnel staff and players and that was the decision that I made. I called Jack and asked him for his approval. He gave it to me and the rest is where we are today.
Q. You initiated that conversation?
Brian Kelly: Oh yeah, yeah.
Q. What did Dexter Williams do to jump out as much as you singled him out after the game Saturday?
Brian Kelly: Special teams, the way he played. His commitment to special teams. The way he practices during the week, his energy, his enthusiasm, his attitude, all the things that I’m looking for in this football team he embodies that right now. Then the way he played. We missed two blocks and he ran through two unblocked players. That’s what you do on defense. That’s how you tackle. You run through a “would be” ball carrier. You defeat a blocker and you make that tackle. You don’t get reached in the three-technique. That’s how you play this game, with that kind of heart and that kind of energy. He embodied that. That’s going to spread throughout our team, and that’s why I singled him out.
Q. Was that a game day for him or has he been like that the whole two years?
Brian Kelly: No, he’s evolved to that.
Q. On game day, Greg Hudson will be on the sideline?
Brian Kelly: That’s correct.
Q. How is every assistant’s job more or less affected by the change of that top defensive coach position and what’s a guy like Bob Elliot say day-to-day —
Brian Kelly: Bob is a senior advisor to me that’s focused primarily on oversight, and his focus is on oversight, defensive oversight and quality control. He’s a very experienced coach who spent a lot of time on defense and I’ve got him focused on quality control and oversight on defense.
Q. So nothing really changes with the new coordinator in place now for Bob in that sense?
Brian Kelly: Well, no, I think his attention as much more focused on, you know, defensive implementation, fundamentals, obviously cross-checking. Just a much more detailed approach to what’s going on. As I want to do some things and want to put some things in, you know, he’s making sure that they fit relative to scheme terminology that’s already existing and, you know, again, his experience can help in many ways relative to where we are right now.
Q. Switching gears, what makes Eric Dungy difficult to defend? He’s obviously a risk-taker and capable with his arms and legs.
Brian Kelly: He’s not afraid to throw it any arm angle, sidearm, under hand, behind his head. He’s going to get the ball out to his playmakers. He will stand in there. He will take a hit. He’s fearless. He’s got a strong arm, and he’s really athletic. They’ve asked him want to run as much, and he certainly could run every down.
But they need him in there because he’s their best quarterback. I think it’s his — he’s fearless and he can get the ball down the field to the guys he needs to.
Q. You talked Sunday about possibly making some personnel changes from moving guys around. Have you had those conversations yet with your staff?
Brian Kelly: Yes.
Q. And have you kind of come to some conclusions as far as maybe some guys that might shift around from a positional standpoint?
Brian Kelly: Yes.
Q. Do you care to share that?
Brian Kelly: I can’t right now because that would give away the things we’re doing.
Q. Are some of those changes long-term or more for Syracuse, because they run a bit of a unique offense.
Brian Kelly: They do. They do. They make it difficult for you to get some of your personnel on the field. So some of it is, in fact, for Syracuse, but some of it will be for some long-term effectiveness for our defense as well.
Q. When the team runs tempo like this it can be difficult to get guys in and out during a series. You talked about playing multiple players. Does that force you as a defense to make series-by-series rotations so guys are not running guys in and out —
Brian Kelly: Yeah, yeah, it’s — you have to think of it in terms of, you know, anytime the ball is on their sideline you cannot make a situational substitution. If the ball is on your sideline you can get a guy in, you know, there’s a chance. They do scan, so there is a chance.
But anytime it’s on their sideline we can’t get a guy in the game. It’s virtually impossible. Certainly if the clock stops we can get guys in. Void of that, you have to be tactical in how you get your guys in and out of the game.
Q. Does that include your different personnel packages?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, so there again, gotta eliminate all that. I can’t have 15 different personnel packages, right? We’ve got a couple personal packages. That’s it. There can’t be cross-training into three different personnel packages. We’ve streamlined that to the point where the guys are going to know by hopefully Thursday exactly where they fit in each group.
Q. I think a lot of weeks you go into games, generally a lot of defenses against most offense you play inside out, stop the run between the tackles and play to the sidelines. Does Syracuse force you to play more outside and with their perimeter pass game and then they want to gash up the middle but they’re going to attack the perimeter so quickly and so often?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I would say the best way to characterize them is they’re going to push the ball vertically, first, and then as you back off, they’re going to, just, dunk it to death. They’ve just got a good versatility to what they want to do. They’ve got a great quick game. They can run the ball if you want to be in a soft box. To me it’s what I know offensively. They just do it really, really fast. Really, really fast, but its premise is they want to go vertical. It’s a vertical team to start.
Q. I’m curious, what is it about Coach Hudson that gives you the confidence that he can bring that immediate attitude adjustment that you’re looking for?
Brian Kelly: He’s got passion for Notre Dame. He loves Notre Dame. I’ve been able to observe him in an analyst role and his demeanor, just all of the things that I’m looking for in our guys. We mentioned one guy that brought that attitude and demeanor was Dexter. He brings that as a person, as a staff member. He’s going to be able to continue that fire that we need with all of our coaches as well.
Q. You talked so much about urgency and passion and those types of things and you put a lot of it on the coaching staff. But I’m curious, a lot of this would have to come from the players. What is your level of satisfaction that you’re getting from senior leadership and in particular your team captains at this point?
Brian Kelly: Well, you know, I think the mix here is morale and attitude that comes from me. I have to create that. They were part of a junior class where we lost five juniors in that class, you know? Those five were Alpha dogs that were in that class with them. They were part of that class, too, and they lost a significant group of leaders in that class as well. So it’s my job to create that attitude within the ranks. I have obviously not done a good enough job and that’s why we are 1-3. Now, they’ve got to play better. They’ve got to execute better. There is no question about it. But, look, the pieces that we’re missing, yeah, we’re inexperienced in a number of areas and primarily in some key areas, but what we’re missing are ingredients that we can fix quick and that’s why we made the change that we did.
Q. Finally, shortly before you named Kizer the full-time starter, you talked about whoever end up the number two guy, he better get out of the way. How is Malik Zaire holding up to that challenge?
Brian Kelly: You know, it’s a tough role. It’s a tough role. He is understanding what needs to do in that role, let’s put it that way. It’s evolving. It’s evolving. Are you going to be here Thursday? You will be? Ask me Thursday.
Q. Justin Brent, where is he healthwise at this point?
Brian Kelly: Still hobbled. Still hobbled. To the point where I don’t think he is a guy that can go at 100% right now. He’s probably going to end up on demo squad for us at this point.
Q. At this stage of the season would it be too much to ask a guy to move to another side of the ball? When you talk about personnel changes, is it too —
Brian Kelly: Yes, yes.
Q. So you can tweak some things —
Brian Kelly: Unless it was Quenton Nelson, maybe, he could probably play nose guard. He could probably do that, but we’re not doing that.
Q. I thought I had a story there!
Brian Kelly: We’re not doing that. He’s the only guy. It’s not happening.
Q. You mentioned if anything you’ve been maybe less demonstrative than you need to be and you haven’t had the fire. Obviously you had some incidents early in your career where NBC cameras caught you in maybe less than flattering situations where you probably felt that you need to do tone it down. Has that been part of it, and do you feel like you need to be yourself a little more?
Brian Kelly: I can still be demonstrative, but I just feel like they still have to see that passion from me as well and that’s all I was saying. I don’t have to be a loon particular on the sideline and throw chairs and do that kinda stuff. But they have to feel that from me as well. I think that’s very important in this game of football.
Q. Lou Holtz was on a radio show this week where he said in his own times he had to look and probe closely to see if there was player dissension within the ranks, whether it’s — it can be taking sides on the quarterback or anything like that. Have you been able to gauge anything on that front?
Brian Kelly: We’re 1-3. We’re 1-3. Our players aren’t that bad. Our coaches are pretty good coaches. I’ve been doing it for 27 years. Obviously, we’re working through some things. We’re working through some things and our guys are working through ’em. We’re working through ’em, and we think we’re going back in the right direction. So I think I’ve answered that question.
Q. You mentioned the mental part of having more passion and emotion and just a fun aspect out there. The physical part, I guess one of the main issues is the tackling.
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Q. Is that something that has become more emphasized?
Brian Kelly: I will say it one more time, okay? Because I don’t think you guys are hearing me on this, okay? I feel like there are a number of facets to this, but I think a lot of it has to do with, we have some guys that are overexposed in those positions of tackling, and that will change. Devin Studstill had 67 plays in him. When he missed that play that was a simple play on the sideline. He’s a true freshman. Fatigue was part of that. Fatigue was part of that. We’ve got to do a better job there. I’m not laying it all on fatigue but we have to be smarter. We’ve got other players that can be in the game at that time. We’ve got to be smarter. Te’von Coney was at play 56 when he missed the tackle on the back. So we gotta be smarter! Drue Tranquill had a great game. He had 39 plays. He had one of his best games. Yeah, he missed one tackle, but he’s a safety! He had a great game. We’ve got to manage our players better. That’s on us. That’s on me. That’s on our coaches. We’ve got to manage our players better and do a better job there. Yeah, we gotta continue to coach tackling, but we’ve got to manage our players better and we have some young guys out there and we can’t overexpose them.
Q. After the game Saturday, some of your former players had some pretty critical Tweets of you. I was curious if you saw those and what was your reaction to them, if so?
Brian Kelly: What do you think? That would be no and no.
Q. You touched on it a little bit, but I asked Isaac Rochell after the game if he was worried about losing the locker room as a senior leader, and he said that he’s not worried. He hasn’t seen guys start pointing fingers yet, but when a team starts out 1-3 and is inexperienced, that is, you know, a worry for him. Is that a worry for you as well?
Brian Kelly: Absolutely! Absolutely! Yeah.
Q. How did the players react to you telling them that BVG was let go?
Brian Kelly: I didn’t poll them individually, but as I mentioned before, players are a resilient group. I’m sure there are some that were more disappointed than others, nobody wants to see anybody lose their job. This is real. He bought a home and has a family and this is, you know, this isn’t fairytale. This isn’t reality TV. Somebody lost their job. He’s a friend of mine, and this is real. It’s not pretend. I didn’t go around and poll the group.
Q. I know you said on Saturday that the defensive scheme will be more your scheme and similar to what you guys have already been running. How do you describe Coach Hudson’s scheme and his general coaching style?
Brian Kelly: I think I’ve answered the question. He’s going to adapt to what I want to run. His style is going to be Coach Kelly’s style. What he’s going to bring is the love of Notre Dame, along with a staff that has Notre Dame former coaches on it and they clearly understand what we’re missing, and what we’re lacking. I’m very confident you’re going to see that come back with him and the defensive staff come Saturday.
Q. Do you feel it’s important that you have former Notre Dame players and Notre Dame grads on your coaching staff?
Brian Kelly: I don’t think it’s a necessity, but if they fit, I think it’s great. But, no, I don’t think I go around the country going, I gotta have a Notre Dame guy on my staff, but if he’s the right fit and he’s Notre Dame, well that’s even better.
Q. Tempo has been something that’s plagued BVG’s defenses in the past. Syracuse obviously runs a fast scheme, so how do you plan to battle that fast-paced offense?
Brian Kelly: There’s complications to that obviously. We have to be fundamentally sound. We have to be able to communicate calls effectively that allow us to be in a good position to take away their big weapons. We already talked about No. 7, but the other receiver they have is really a fine player as well. So they’ve got some weapons that are going to challenge us.
That’s it? Only nine questions? College credit for that! (Chuckles.)
Q. You said in the team meetings yesterday that you feel your players clearly understand the direction that you guys need to go. How do you know that they clearly understand the direction that you need to go?
Brian Kelly: I can’t get into that.
Q. Did they show you anything? Was there —
Brian Kelly: Oh, yeah.
Q. Extra fire in the weight room?
Brian Kelly: I just would say this, and I’m not trying to be evasive in the answering of the question other than it was a personal and private family meeting, and what went on in here was emotional.
So to divulge what was a personal and private meeting other than a meeting had to take place for us to move forward is really all I could divulge.
Q. I know you touched a little bit about the receiver, but what makes him so dangerous? He’s the number one receiver in the country right now.
Brian Kelly: They give him the ball! They flat out throw it to him under all circumstances! They keep throwin’ it to him and throwin’ it to him and throwing it to him. So he’s targeted all the time. The ball is going to go to him and they’re going to move him around and get him the football. It’s good coaching. It’s smart. He’s a really, really good player. Because they play so fast, it’s difficult to run multiple coverages to him.
So if you’re going to play off, he’s pulling it up. If you play up, he’s going vertical. And they do a really good job of utilizing him in that fashion and he’s got skill. He can run over the top of and you he’s also got a great catching radius. He’s tall and athletic and he can — last week they had their best corner. I know I talked to Bob, they had their best corner on him, but he’s 5-9. The kid was in great position he just went up over him two or three times and took the ball from him.
Q. When looking at film, have you noticed a common thread between any of the big plays that you’ve given up on defense?
Brian Kelly: Oh, yeah.
Q. Is there anything in particular that you kind of — that you need to hone in on specifically?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, certainly it starts with the fundamentals of tackling, and, you know, our guys, being in the right position. We’ve got to get ’em in the right position and it will start with this Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.